How to Get Speaking Engagements

Public speaking is something that is either incredibly terrifying or incredibly fascinating to most people. Being in front of a group of people presenting is an incredible rush. There’s nothing quite like it. Once most people get a taste of it, they can’t wait to do it again.

For nearly a decade now, I’ve made my living as a full-time professional speaker. I’ve given literally hundreds of presentations for thousands and thousands of people. I’ve spoken to classrooms with a handful of people and in an arena with 13,000 people (which was pretty cool I might add :).

Speaking is a great way to grow your audience or platform. It’s a powerful medium to share an idea or concept. It’s incredible tool for building relationships. And it’s really freakin’ fun. No wonder so many people are fascinated by this topic. So if we all agree that speaking is a great skill to posses for both personal and professional reasons, then comes the question…

How do I actually get booked (and preferably paid) to speak?

Well I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with some foundational questions…

1. Who do you want to speak to?
If you could talk to any audience, who would it be? What is the group of people that gets you excited to speak to? Teenagers? Entrepreneurs? Executives? Moms? Model train enthusiasts? Moms of model train enthusiasts? Who is it that makes you say, “YES…those are my people!”?

Once you figure out who you want to speak to… you can use my free tool Agent to find events and contact email addresses of event organizers to reach out to.

2. What do you want to speak about?
So let’s assume you could speak to that ideal audience…what would you say? What would you want to share with them that will enrich their lives, businesses, etc?

Now here’s a little bonus tip: just because you know who you want to talk to and what you want to talk about doesn’t mean someone will actually pay you for it. There are topics that the market will generally pay for and others that they generally won’t. How do you know the difference? Keep reading 🙂

3. What makes you qualified to present on this subject?
Of all the other speakers on the planet who could present on this topic, why you? Perhaps you have a fancy degree on the subject. Maybe you have significant experience. Maybe you have produced serious results with what you want to share.

The good news is you don’t have to have some fancy or lengthy pedigree to be able to speak. You don’t need to have been on Survivor (is that even still on?) or have won the Nobel Peace prize (because that’s on par with being on Survivor :).

I remember this was a concern of mine when I got started. I would do mostly motivational speaking, so people would ask me what my story was. What they were really asking was, “What was the tragic life event you had to overcome that makes you qualified to motivate us today?” 🙂

And the fact is I don’t have any fancy life story. Sure I’ve had a few hiccups in my life that I talk about in my speeches but nothing that is news-worthy or life-altering for most people. And that’s ok. There’s value in just being a really good speaker or being able to eloquently talk about a topic.

Now I understand that you may not know the answers to these questions at this moment. That’s okay. I’ve found the more you speak, the better you’ll be able to answer these questions. But in the meantime, at least come up with some broad answers so we have somewhere to start.

Before we start connecting with decision makers, we want to get a few other foundational marketing pieces in place.

1. Website
Do I really have to tell you this?! In this day and age, a website is your business card. If you’re serious about speaking, you must have a website. If someone is considering hiring you to speak, they will want to do their homework on you and your website is where they will do it. It doesn’t need to be complicated or fancy. Just a few pages to tell how you are, what you talk about, any recommendations or testimonials and a contact page. Really that’s about it.

If you already have a website, then you’re a step ahead. Just make sure your site communicates that you’re a speaker. People won’t think to book you as a speaker if they don’t know you are one. If someone you know was looking for a speaker, would they think of you? Not because of how good or not good you may be, but do they even know speaking is something you offer?

2. Demo Video
Think of a demo video like a movie trailer. You take a 90-minute movie and boil it down to 2-3 minutes of the best stuff. You can watch a trailer and have a pretty good idea what the movie is about and whether or not it’s a fit for you. That’s exactly what your demo video needs to be. It’s just a few short minutes showing highlights from your talk. Just like your website, a demo video is a must. You can tell a potential client you’re really good and that you’d be a good fit for their event, but they’ll want to see it themselves.

But how do you make a demo video if you don’t have any footage of you speaking? Like with anything, you start with what you’ve got. Do you have any speaking engagements coming up? Even just a small workshop, Sunday school class, or boardroom presentation will work. If not, can you find a small environment where you could speak (for free) just so you could film it? Worst case scenario, I’ve seen some demo videos of speakers just talking to an empty room. Now of course you can’t tell that it’s empty. You just need footage of you speaking.

My first demo video was horrible. The footage was grainy and the lighting was bad. You couldn’t hear the audio real well, and I wasn’t even that great of a speaker. I even edited it together on Windows Movie Maker! Why? Because that’s what I had to work with at the time! My demo videos have evolved over time and now my current one was shot and edited by a guy who does video work for Richard Branson, Tony Robbins, and Tim Ferriss. But in the beginning, work with what you’ve got!

3. Testimonials (optional but preferred)
Testimonials provide social proof that you know what you’re doing. Now I know what you’re thinking…”Grant, how do I get testimonials if I’ve never spoke before?!” Glad you asked! You have to start with what you’ve got. Have you given a presentation at a work meeting? Pitched a proposal before? Spoke at a PTA meeting at your kid’s school? Any public speaking experience will work.

Now, think back to who was in the audience that could provide some form of testimonial (side note: the fancier their title, the better). You don’t need them to lie or make up something that didn’t happen. But if you spoke for 10 minutes in a boardroom and someone has a testimony that you were “very well prepared and inspiring in your presentation. The audience was engaged with the talk and hanging on every word.” If that happened and someone will give you a testimonial for it, then use it!

Continue reading here.